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GOP budget proposal slashes aid to poor

Andrew Taylor Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A Republican plan stuffed with familiar proposals to cut across a wide swath of the federal budget has breezed through the House Budget Committee.

The panel adopted the measure late Wednesday on a party-line vote after Democrats assaulted its sharp cuts to health care coverage for the middle class and the poor, food stamps and popular domestic programs such as highway construction, health research and education. GOP supporters said it’s needed to prevent a looming fiscal crisis.

The plan by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the committee chairman and the party’s former vice presidential nominee, promises $5.1 trillion in cuts over the coming decade to help bring the government’s ledger into the black by 2024.

The plan is a nonstarter with the Democratic Senate and President Barack Obama, but gives Republicans a vehicle to polish their budget-cutting credentials in the run-up to fall midterm elections in which they’re counting on a big turnout from GOP conservatives and the tea party.

Ryan’s plan would wrestle the government’s chronic deficits under control after a decade, relying on deep cuts to Medicaid, highway construction, federal employee pension benefits, food and heating aid to the poor, and Pell Grants for college students from low-income families. It would eliminate health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act while assuming the government keeps $1 trillion worth of Obamacare’s tax increases, and retains a 10-year, $700 billion cut to Medicare that Democrats drove through in 2010 when passing the health care law.

Democrats cast Ryan’s plan as an all-out assault on the poor and working class. More than $700 billion in cuts to Medicaid over 10 years would force hundreds of thousands of seniors from nursing home care, for instance, while $135 billion cut from food stamps and other nutrition aid would increase hunger. Eliminating a mandatory funding stream for Pell Grants would mean fewer poor kids could dream of college, they said, while cuts to education, scientific research and NASA would harm U.S. competitiveness.

Ryan’s budget brings back a now-familiar list of spending cuts: $2.1 trillion over 10 years in health care subsidies and coverage under the Affordable Care Act; $732 billion in cuts to Medicaid and other health care programs; almost $1 trillion in cuts to other benefit programs like food stamps, Pell Grants and farm subsidies. Hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts are not identified at all.

The measure also reprises a proposal to dramatically reshape Medicare for future retirees, providing those who now are 55 or younger with a federal subsidy to buy health insurance on the open market.

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